To rapturous applause from hospital staff, Daniel Kim stood up and walked out of St. Jude Medical Center on Wednesday, feeling lucky to be alive.
The 49-year-old was hospitalized in Fullerton, California over the summer after contracting COVID-19. He spent five months there , the longest ever for a coronavirus patient at the medical center, and two of those months on a ventilator.
But on Wednesday - with the help of a walker and an oxygen tank - he was finally able to go home.
KIM: "Right after I came out of a coma, I never thought I could actually walk out like this… , but, you know, I walked out today, you know."
Kim says he knew his odds of surviving were low - he is diabetic, suffers from hypertension and was overweight when he was diagnosed with COVID-19.
"Honestly speaking, before I actually got this virus, it was just something on the news. Okay I gotta wear my mask, okay I gotta wash my hands. But after I really got it, it came really, came real to me. Oh, this is a very dangerous and life-threatening virus. I couldn't have known that other than you really getting it."
Kim was not alone throughout his journey. Doctors, nurses and therapists were by his side, as well as his sister Julie, who is a registered nurse at St. Jude Medical Center.
JULIE KIM: "I was really scared, and I was very anxious. There were some very scary moments."
Dr. Michael Katz, Critical Care Specialist at St. Jude Medical Center, witnessed Kim's ordeal and says his recovery is a sign of hope.
"I think this is a situation where one person's journey can speak for, can represent the plight of hundreds of thousands of people at this point. And it really tells the story. Daniel's recovery is hope."
Kim is learning how to walk again, and grateful to have another chance...at everything.
"I'm going to be mindful of places I go, things I eat, things I speak. Just kind of have a different perspective of life."